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Argentina and lithium: the hunt for the "white gold"

2021-09-18T09:19:26.628Z

Soon there will be a lot more electric cars on the streets. They all have rechargeable batteries, and you need lithium for that. Argentina has high hopes for the "white gold" - despite the high costs, also for the environment.



Read the video transcript here

Mountains on the horizon, otherwise only desert as far as the eye can see: Here, in one of the most remote regions of South America, international chemical companies are digging, drilling and pumping.

They want the lithium in the groundwater, the "white gold".

David Guerrero Alvarado, Advisor to Alpha Lithium:

“Argentina could become the world's leading producer in less than a decade, especially when it comes to brine.

Provided that the flow of projects is maintained. "

The Salinas Grandes del Noroeste salt desert has the third largest lithium reserve in the world.

The light metal is the raw material for those batteries that are installed on a particularly large scale in electric cars.

The price of the coveted raw material has risen so much in the past year that the province of Salta is now concentrating entirely on the lucrative business with lithium.

Flavia Royon, Minister for Mines and Energy:

“In the years to come, everything will depend on the plants.

We have projects that range from 10,000 tons to 40,000 tons of lithium carbonate.

Everything depends on the facilities.

In the next few years, Salta will easily position itself as a producer of 200,000 tons of lithium carbonate. "

Argentina is already the fourth largest lithium producer in the world. But the government wants more: the provinces are building logistical hubs and access roads and removing obstructive regulations for the sector - everything to attract investors and expand production. The state's center-left government, for example, has cut taxes on electric cars and mining exports and eased controls on foreign companies.

However, the so-called white gold is not green and environmentally friendly.

Salta is on the edge of the so-called lithium triangle between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, one of the driest regions on earth.

Here, millions of liters of groundwater are pumped to the surface and left in the sun in huge basins.

After evaporation, a salt crust is left that can be used to make lithium carbonate.

Industry needs an average of 170,000 liters of groundwater to produce a single ton of lithium.

International chemical companies are queuing up to obtain permits for lithium production.

Alejandro Moro, Managing Director of Rincon Lithium:

“We hope the funding will be completed in a year.

Then the largest plant will produce 50,000 tons a year.

This makes Rincon one of the largest lithium carbonate plants in the world.

(...) Lithium will definitely replace biofuels or, in the future, will help us to leave biofuels behind us more quickly. "

Argentina is currently one of the most important growing countries for soy and sunflowers and has subsidized the production of so-called biofuels for years.

Now, according to the will of the authorities, more and more changes are to be made, to electric vehicles - and to lithium.

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2021-09-18

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